Jellyfish Transparent Disks Of Beach Life
I never gave those flimsy transparent disks of life that float in every sea much thought until I stood beside a giant hulk of a man, brought to his knees -- screaming over being stung by one. It was a shocking sight, because the jellyfish literally covered the side of his face. Before that day on Daytona Beach, Florida, they just seemed so innocent looking.
Up until then, I was just fascinated by their common peculiarity of being an all round structure, so to speak. That is, they have no "sides," but are circular and symmetrical to a central axis.
However, there are a multitude of "sides" to jellyfish, that don't meet the eye. There are also a lot of myths and misinformation about jellyfish that take "no sides" to a whole never level. Staring with the fact that they are not fish, but a species called "cnidarians."
Before I tell you about all of that though, I'll tell you what most people do know -- that jellyfish, while at first sight, appear to be the most defenseless of creatures, they actually have their stings and poisoned barbs that are most powerful -- as the man on the beach found out.
Aside from being circular, symmetrical, and tied to a central axis -- jellyfish have no complicated internal divisions of the body, like the higher animals. They are instead furnished with a complex digestive system which is not a closed canal, as we should expect to find. Instead, the whole interior of the body is a digestive system.
All of nature's rules are broken when the truth comes out about certain species of jellyfishes. For instance, the Ctenophora (Comb-jellies) have no stinging cells, but instead multitudes of tiny adhesive disks which clutch and secure minute prey.
Then, another of the exceptions in the jellyfish world, is the lovely Venus's Girdle -- which is not circular, like the rest. It exists as a broad ribbon of exquisite life, fringed with cilia which bring food within range. Some of this group have taken to creeping along the sea bed, and so have assumed a drawn out two-sided form.
Still another exception in the jellyfish world, is the Caelenterata, which is an example of a dazzling contrivance on the part of mother nature, for distributing her family, in what is called "alteration of generations." It is not peculiar to this group, but here we have a fine example of the method.
Suppose we have a jellyfish mass which, as with sponges, includes many individual jellyfish which budded from the original parent, but remained attached to it? If these went on budding and growing, the mass would become inconveniently large.
Furthermore, if the component parts all produced eggs, they would overcrowd the sea in their neighborhood and bring about starvation for themselves and all their kind.
A Closer Look At What Happens
The many-in-one are technically called a "stock." Parts of the stock, charged with eggs, break away, like the gemmules of the sponge, float off, and colonize some new area of water, where the eggs are produced.
Some of these sink and form new stocks, which will bud off new attached members. Others of the eggs, however, will hatch straightway into free-swimming jellyfish.
The plan is ancient and has been employed in many forms of life by Nature. In the jellyfishes -- it has succeeded wonderfully.
This type of jellyfish is represented in all waters, from our own shores, through the tropics, and away toward the waters of both the Poles.
One would expect the warm-water regions to produce the giants, and mighty forms of jellyfish -- but probably the chill of the waters of the far north and south, that in actuality causes this -- because the colder waters contain the titans of the jellyfish world.
Protector Of Orphans
On the diet of jellyfish is tiny larvae of oysters, whelks, eggs of fish, little crustaceans, tiny bristle worms, and multitudes of algae. While the jellyfish is a free feeder, and takes things that might become food for man -- it also swallows the enemies of our fishes and mollusks, and in some cases is the benevolent nursemaid to many kinds of fishes.
It's another surprise to note that baby herrings, baby codfish, and a multitude of other friendless orphans in the sea, which later may come to the table of man in breadcrumbs, or batter -- look to the jellyfish for shelter. You might be wondering why the jellyfish does not sting them to death as it stings other fish?
The answer to that is that certain crustaceans whose hard coats make them indifferent to its stings, play the brigand to the jellyfish. They attach themselves to it and actually take the food out of its mouth. That is disastrous to the jellyfish's prospects of long life but it works.
Then, the little fishes which it shelters are the very ones which need crustaceans as the main part of their diet. So when the robber is pillaging the mouth of the jellyfish, the welcome fish swim up and devour the intruder.
For that act of service, they are entertained without harm by the master of barbs and stings. But, let an enemy of those fish pursue them within range of the jellyfish, then out go the stings, and the foe is either stunned and caught, or so severely punished that it is glad to escape with bare life.
It's important to know that unlike many other species on this planet and in the ocean or sea -- jellyfish are not too worried about becoming extinct or endangered. The opposite is happening, as we lose more and more of their predators -- some species of them are multiplying so fast that they are becoming a threat both to us and others who live in the waters with them.
The Jellyfish Surprise
Jellyfish life extends into many species and is complicated and fascinating. In general, we know that the body, a mass of glassy jelly included between the upper and lower sides of the bell (or umbrella), bears a number of arms (or tentacles), and that form these tissue, the abominable stinging barbs.
These are tiny threads with a dart-like head, which lie coiled lasso-like in batteries of minute "thread-cells." They are violently ejected when touched, and cause severe aching pain, as they penetrate the skin.
In the highest form of jellyfish -- the Siphonophora, something really interesting takes place. It has the same systems of stocks and single individuals as in other species of jelly fish -- but is more highly developed.
They are often referred to today as "jellyfish blooms." Here in a single floating mass, they have congregated together, a series of individuals united together, yet recognizable as many in one.
Now normally, we think of honeybees and others as more socialistic or eusocial, as some species are quite unselfish at first glance.The jellyfish surprise, is that such jellyfish colonies are more socialistic than a community of ants or bees. It's labors are subdivided yet co-ordinated, as in mass production in a factory.
There are jellyfish in the united mass which propel the whole colony along, their function being to take in water, contract, and squirt it out, and in that way row the living city about.
Then, there are others which guard the colony from offense, like the huge-jawed soldiers of the warrior ant colonies.
In addition, there are the members which produce eggs or buds, and finally those which collect the food, digest it, and pass the nutritive result, from end to end of the entire body of many individuals in one.
As fascinating a miracle study in cooperation, these same jellyfish colonies are a nightmare for fishermen around the world.
They can weigh over four hundred pounds, ruin the fish in them, and put the fishermen at risk as they get stung trying to remove them from their nets.
The Jellyfish That Never Dies
Ponce de Leon could have saved himself and his crew a lot of heartaches and trouble searching for the Fountain of Youth, if only he could have studied what might be the only one of earth's immortal beings -- the species of jellyfish known as the Turritopsis nutricula.
Jellyfish usually have short life spans, ranging from a few hours in some species to six months in others. This species, however, through cell changes in the exumbrella transforms itself into a stolon by turning itself inside out. Then the middle section and tentacles are reabsorbed, and the polyp spawns. It's a little complicated, but it's a reverse life-cycle that allows the jellyfish to not die and pretty much makes it biologically immortal forever and ever reproducing its own self.
Portuguese Man o' War - Beautiful But Wickedly Deadly
In some ways, the Portuguese Man-of-War (Siphonophora)is the crowning glory of jellyfish perfection. It's a thing of exquisitely radiant colors of blue and shiny purples, supported at the water surface by a float like a luminous inflated sack, eight or ten inches long and six inches in diameter -- with a living nursery attached to its under-side, and stinging tentacles many feet long streaming out like a corrosive battery far in the water.
Forget the vinegar, pee, and alcohol -- Here are some tips for dealing with stings from this jellyfish stings:
- Remove any tentacles with anything that allows you to not touch it directly or add to the injury.
- Rinse the sting thoroughly with salt water and sand to remove any hidden tentacles.
- Cover the sting with ice as quickly as possible.
- If stung near or around the eyes rinse continuously for at least fifteen minutes in tap water (not salt water). Then seek medical attention, especially if encountering blurred vision, swelling, or if your eyes become light sensitive.
- After first aid use hydro cortisone ointments several times a day and over-the-counter Benadryl).
Remember-- formerly vinegar was a popular remedy but is now no longer recommended for Portuguese man-of-war stings. Likewise, meat tenderizer and baking soda can further damage the injured area.
Note: Two hours after Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish are dead, they can still sting you
Box Jellyfish -- Lethal Encounters On The March
If the ocean could come with a warning label, it would read:
"Don't go near the water, whenever and wherever Box Jellyfish are found."
Weighing less than an ounce, and almost invisible, jellyfish that is absolutely deadly. They are showing up in new and more places every day -- including Florida and Hawaii. This one jellyfish is considered to be one of the most deadly venom bites in the world. It contains poisons that will cause those who come into contact with it in the water to quickly go into shock, drown, or die of heart failure -- all before they can get out of the water.
This is because the toxins in the venom simultaneously attacked the heart, nervous system, and even skin cells. Massively painful, even if someone is lucky enough to survive -- the victims are in horrible pain for weeks and are scarred for life wherever the tentacles have touched them.
You have virtually no chance of surviving the venomous sting, unless treated immediately. The pain is so excruciating and overwhelming that you would most likely go into shock and drown before reaching the shore. So don't go swimming alone! Be sure to know the first aid procedures.
In the case of the Box Jellyfish there are four rules for immediate first aid while awaiting medical help:
- Pour large amounts of vinegar over the tentacles to deaden them as quickly as possible.
- Never ever use alcohol of any kind.
- Perform CPR or be prepared to preform CPR
- While waiting for medical help and anti-venom, try pressure immobilisation on limbs after inactivation of stinging tentacles cells.
Box jellyfish should be one of the many reasons people should not ever go swimming alone. You have virtually no chance for survival without immediate medical help. The pain from this one species of jellyfish is greater than you can imagine.
Box Jellyfish -- Irukandji
So Who Eats The Jellyfish?
First of all, other jellyfish eat jellyfish. The jellyfish also has to look out for being eaten by tuna, shark, swordfish, one species of Pacific salmon, and sea turtles.
Mankind of course, is also the predator of the jellyfish as in many cultures eating a certain type of jellyfish (particularly in Asia) is common on the menu.
The menu consists of Rhizostomeae (scyphozoan jellyfish), of which there are about eighty-five species, twelve of which that are considered edible.
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